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Freshwater & Oceans

Tools for evaluating habitat quality

Wetland Prioritization Study Main Page

 

Single-objective tools

 

Multi-objective tools

 


 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Recovery Potential Screening (EPA RPS) Ecological Capacity Tool:1 This tool evaluates the ecological condition (and if possible, capacity to regain functions) of hydrologic units in terms of physical/biotic structure and key natural processes. By assessing subwatershed units within HUC-8s, for example, the tool identifies areas that might be targeted for restoration either based on their own restorability alone, or to achieve the largest improvement in condition for the HUC-8 as a whole.

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Watershed natural structure

Watershed percent natural cover

NLCD(2); NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4); statewide land cover data from state-specific sources

Watershed percent forest

NLCD(2); NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4); statewide land cover data from state-specific sources

Watershed percent wetlands

NLCD(2); NWI(5); NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4); statewide land cover data from state-specific sources

Watershed percent woody vegetation

NLCD(2); NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4); statewide land cover data from state-specific sources

Watershed topographic complexity

USGS NED(6); USGS EDNA(7); NHD plus flowline elevation data(4)

Watershed forest patch mean area

NLCD(2); NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4)

Watershed soil resilience

NRCS Soil Data Mart(8); statewide digital soil survey data

Watershed percent streamlength unimpaired

EPA geospatial data CWA §303(d) impaired waters listings(9)

Watershed shape (more elongate watersheds score higher)

NRCS WBD(3)

Watershed size (watersheds with smaller areas score higher)

NRCS WBD(3); NHDplus catchments(4)

Corridor and shorelands stability

Bank stability/soils (percent stream length passing through highly erosive soil types)

NRCS Soil Data Mart(8)

Bank stability/woody vegetation (percent of bank length with woody vegetation)

NLCD(2); NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program coastal area land cover data(10); NHDplus flowline land cover flowline attribute data(4)

Corridor percent forest

NLCD(2)

Corridor percent woody vegetation

NLCD(2); NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program coastal area land cover data(10)

Corridor percent wetlands

NLCD(2); NWI(5)

Corridor slope

USGS EDNA(7)

Corridor soil erosion potential

NRCS Soil Data Mart(8)

Corridor soil types (soils better for nitrogen processing, stability/erosion resistance, and other factors score higher)

NRCS Soil Data Mart(8)

Shoreline percent forested

NLCD(2)

Shoreline percent woody vegetation

NLCD(2)

Flow and channel dynamics

Natural channel form (linear percent of total reach length in natural channel form)

NHD(6); state/locally compiled channelization metrics

Corridor groundwater level (average depth to water table over a specific size area)

Not often available as continuous landscape data(11)

Channel slope (change in elevation over channel length)

USGS EDNA(7)

Sinuosity (channel segment length divided by straight line length)

NHD(6)

Confinement ratio (valley floor width divided by stream channel width)

Aerial photography; field data

Channel evolution status

Spatial data for this factor are unlikely to be found but guidance on evaluating successional status is available from EPA(12)

Fine sediment transport capacity

High-resolution NHD(6); field measurements

Natural flow regime

Data on flow regime are limited. Using specific measures of one or more of the five flow regime components is more feasible than a single metric to summarize flow regime overall.

Median flow maintenance (departure from median monthly flow with reference to natural streamflow regimes)

Gauging station data

Low flow maintenance (annual 7-day minimum flow or frequency and duration with which flow drops below a given threshold).

N/A

Stahler stream order

NHDplus value-added attributes data4; Mid-Atlantic Landscape Atlas(13)

Biotic community integrity

Biotic community integrity

State monitoring datasets (e.g., Benthic IBI for Puget Sound Lowlands(14) or NatureServe ecologic integrity assessment data(15))

Rare taxa presence

NatureServe Explorer(16); USDA Plants Database(17); USFWS Critical Habitat Portal(18)

Trophic state (measured categorically with weights assigned between eutrophic and oligotrophic extremes)

Standard data sources usually do not exist unless compiled through state monitoring programs or special studies.

NFHAP fish habitat condition index

NFHAP map viewer(19)

Aquatic connectivity

Confluence density (count of confluences per mile of watershed total stream length

NHDplus Strahler stream order data(4)

Unimpaired confluences density (count of confluences of unimpaired channels per mile of impaired segments).

Impaired segment shapefiles from ATTAINS(20); NHDplus Stahler Order data(4)

Watershed stream density

NHDplus(4)

Contiguity with green infrastructure corridor

Statewide data for intact and ecologically functional stream corridors and larger natural habitat "hubs" (e.g., data for Maryland(21) or California(22))

Proximity to green infrastructure hub (GI hub percent of watershed/stream segment

Statewide data for intact and ecologically functional stream corridors and larger natural habitat "hubs" (e.g., data for Maryland21 or California (22))

Recolonization access (count of confluences with +/-1 Strahler stream order unimpaired channels per mile of impaired segment)

Impaired segment shapefiles from ATTAINS(20); NHDplus Strahler stream order data(4); dam location data where available

Ecological history

Maintenance of percent natural cover (change in total percent of land area in watershed within forest, shrubland, wetlands, grasslands, desert, and barren land categories)

NLCD(2); statewide land cover data from state-specific sources

Ratio current/historic percent forest

NLCD(2); statewide data on potential natural vegetation cover that provide an approximation of presettlement vegetation types and distribution

Ratio current/historic percent wetlands

NLCD(2); NWI(5)

Historical species occurrence

USFWS Critical Habitat Portal(18); historical information available through State Fish and Wildlife Service (e.g., Oregon(23)).

Species range

USFWS Critical Habitat Portal, historical information available through State Fish and Wildlife Service (e.g., Oregon(23))

Acronym definitions

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Kramer et al. (2012) Maintenance of High Biodiversity Streams Tool:24 Rates potential sites highest where they lie in closest proximity to high priority, high biodiversity streams, an indicator of the ability of sites to reduce non-point source pollution entering high biodiversity aquatic habitats. This metric was calculated similarly to the Kramer et al. (2012) Water Quality and Quantity Index, except it is based on high priority streams data.

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Potential Runoff Index (PRI)

Land cover types

2008 GLUT database

Hydrologic soils groups

STATSGO soils data

TR-55 curve numbers

USDA (1986)

Two-year 24-hour storm event data

Isopluvial maps

Distance to High Priority Streams Index (DHPSI)

Streams that support aquatic species of conservation concern for the "Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for Georgia."

Georgia Natural Heritage Program high priority streams.

Lakes and large rivers

NHD

Land use types

2008 GLUT database

Acronym definitions

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Kramer et al. (2012) Natural Upland Surrounding Site Tool:24 This tool ranked 30m2 areas in terms of their connectivity to terrestrial habitats, which provide important benefits to wildlife. In particular, juvenile amphibians disperse to neighboring wetlands through intervening upland habitat. Terrestrial habitats also serve as critical foraging and breeding areas for adult amphibians. This tool evaluated sites by estimating their benefits to adult amphibians in terms of percentage of upland vegetation within a 500-meter radius of the wetland. Factors and associated data sources used to rank sites are listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Natural upland vegetation patches

Natural vegetation patches

GAP vertebrate species models

Wetland land cover

1974 GLUT database

Acronym definitions

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan (LACPRA CMP) American Alligator Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):25 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of habitat type, water depth, water salinity, and marsh edge effect on the habitat quality of American Alligator. Based on observational data and a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that contained 60-80% emergent vegetation land cover (which provides ideal nesting area), large amounts of edge habitat (where prey are more plentiful), and low salinity (the American Alligator is a freshwater species). Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below.

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Depth relative to marsh surface

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

Water salinity

Eco-hydrology model

Percent land

Wetland morphology model

Marsh edge

Wetland morphology model

Habitat type

Vegetation model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan (LACPRA CMP) Brown shrimp Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):26 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing brown shrimp habitat suitability based on water quality and food/cover characteristics. Drawing from existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained a percent coverage of marsh vegetation ranging from 25-80%, a mean salinity for spring ranging from 10-20 ppt, and a mean water temperature for spring ranging from 20-30°C. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Mean salinity for spring (February-May) (ppt)

Eco-hydrology model

Mean water temperature for spring (February-May) (°C)

Percent coverage by marsh vegetation

Vegetation model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan (LACPRA CMP) Crawfish (wild caught) Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):27 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of salinity, water temperature, water depth, vegetative habitat type, and seasonal water level fluctuations on the crawfish habitat quality. Based on a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that had lower salinity (crawfish are freshwater organisms), water temperatures that range from 20-26 °C, water depths of 1.0-2.0m (shallower waters expose crawfish to heat and wading bird predation; deeper water to hypoxic conditions and fish predation), swamp or marsh vegetative classes, and large seasonal changes in water deeper than three meters. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Water temperature

Eco-hydrology model

Water salinity

Water depth

Water level fluctuation

Habitat classification data

Vegetation model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Eastern Oyster Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):28 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of three salinity-based variables and substrate on eastern oyster habitat quality. Based on a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that had 50% or more hard substrate coverage (supporting a large percent coverage of clutch), higher mean salinity during the spawning season (reflecting the higher optimal salinities for spawning compared to the salinity requirements of adults), higher minimum salinity (lower impact of freshwater diversions), mean salinity ranging from 10-15 ppt, and lower percent land. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Mean salinity during spawning season

Eco-hydrology model

Annual mean salinity

Minimum annual salinity

Percent clutch

Reefs on public grounds

LDWF side scan surveys

Oyster leases

LDWF GIS data

Public grounds off of a mapped reef

LDWF side scan surveys

Percent land

N/A

Acronym definitions

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Gadwall Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):29 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing gadwall habitat suitability. Drawing from existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained a high proportion of preferred habitat types (with intermediate and fresh marsh among those weighted highest), a high proportion (70-100%) coverage by water with Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, and a high proportion of days (September-March) with a water depth highly suitable for foraging (18-32cm). Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proportion of cell occupied by gadwall habitat

Wetland morphology model

Percent of cell that is water with Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)

Vegetation model

Proportion of days September-March that the water depth (cm) provided suitable foraging habitat

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Green-Wing Teal Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):30 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing green-wing teal habitat suitability. Drawing from existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained a high proportion of preferred habitat types (with fresh marsh, brackish marsh, and intermediate marsh among those weighted highest) and a high proportion of days (September-March) with a water depth highly suitable for foraging (8-18cm). Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proportion of cell occupied by green-winged teal habitat

Wetland morphology model

Proportion of days September-March that the water depth (cm) provided suitable foraging habitat

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Largemouth Bass Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):31 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of various biotic and abiotic factors on largemouth bass habitat quality. Based on a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that had coverage of emergent vegetation ranging from 30-50% (which afford suitable cover from predators and foraging opportunities without being too dense for swimming), average water temperatures ranging from 18-30 °C, salinity less than 8 ppt (largemouth bass evolved in a freshwater environment), low percent coverage by submerged aquatic vegetation, and high primary productivity (concentration of cholorophyll a). Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Average water temperature for April to August

Eco-hydrology model

Maximum yearly salinity for June to August

Index value of primary productivity in open waters

Percent emergent vegetation per 500 m2

Vegetation model

Percent of cell that is SAV per 1 km2

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan (LACPRA CMP) Mottled Duck Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):32 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing mottled duck foraging habitat suitability. Drawing from existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained large proportion of preferred habitat types (with fresh marsh being most preferred) and a large proportion of days per year that water depth was optimal for foraging. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proportion of cell occupied by mottled duck habitat

Wetland morphology model

Proportion of days per year that water depth is optimal for foraging (6-34cm)

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

 

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(LACPRA CMP) Muskrat Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):33 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of the ratio of land to water, water depth, and habitat type on muskrat habitat quality. Based on a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that contained percent land exceeding 50% (muskrats prefer marsh located farthest from ponds), water depth averaging 15cm below the marsh surface, and brackish marsh habitat type (with decreasing quality for intermediate marsh, fresh marsh, and swamp). Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Water depth relative to marsh surface

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

Percent land

Wetland morphology model

Habitat type

Vegetation model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) River Otter Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):34 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of the ratio of land to water and water depth on river otter habitat quality. Based on existing data, the model ranked areas highest that contained a percent land ranging from 40-60%, a water depth averaging 15cm below the marsh surface, brackish marsh habitat type (with swamp, fresh marsh, and intermediate marsh also ranked highly in the model), and a large amount of edge habitat. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Water depth relative to marsh surface

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

Percent land

Wetland morphology model

Marsh edge

Habitat type

Vegetation model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Roseate Spoonbill (Foraging) Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):35 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing roseate spoonbill foraging habitat suitability. Based on existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained a large coverage by water at depths optimal for foraging for a large proportion of days in the year and a large coverage by edge habitat. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proportion of days water depth is 1-12 cm

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

Portion of cell that is edge habitat (the area of water projecting 10m from the land/water interface)

Wetland morphology model

 

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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration AuthorityCoastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) Roseate Spoonbill (Nesting) Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):35 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing roseate spoonbill nesting habitat suitability. Based on existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained an island land mass less than 100 ha in size and surrounded completely by water, large percent coverage of preferred habitat types, large percent coverage of woody vegetation, and high availability of foraging habitat near nesting sites. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proportion of cell that is near a small, near-shore undeveloped island

GIS Shapefiles

Vegetation type

Proportion of cell that is swamp

Vegetation model

Proportion of cell that is represented by Delta Splay, Wax Myrtle, Cutgrass, Maidencane, Cattail, Sawgrass, and Bulltongue

Proportion of cell that is intermediate, brackish, or saline habitat

Presence of woody vegetation (percent swamp forest, wax myrtle, mangrove, and shrub scrub)

Vegetation model

Sum of available foraging habitat (where daily water depth is between 1 and 12 cm between February and July) from all cells in the 10 km radius of a nesting habitat cell divided by the total number of cells in the radius.

Eco-hydrology model; Wetland morphology model

 

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Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan (LACPRA CMP) Spotted Sea Trout Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):36 This tool calculates HSI values for each 500m2 area representing the effects of food/cover and water quality environmental factors on spotted sea trout habitat quality. Based on a literature review, the model ranked areas highest that had a percent area containing marsh vegetation ranging from 25-80%, a highest monthly mean summer salinity ranging from 10-25 ppt, a lowest monthly mean winter water temperature ranging from 20-30 °C, and a highest monthly mean water temperature ranging from 20-30°C. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Highest monthly mean summer salinity (ppt)

Eco-hydrology model

Lowest monthly mean winter water temperature (°C)

Highest monthly mean summer water temperature (°C)

Percent area containing marsh vegetation

Vegetation model


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The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Master Plan ( LACPRA CMP) White shrimp Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):37 This tool calculated HSI values for each 500m2 area representing white shrimp habitat suitability based on water quality and food/cover characteristics. Drawing from existing data and literature, the model ranked areas highest that contained a percent coverage by marsh vegetation ranging from 25-80%, a mean salinity for summer ranging from 5-15 ppt, and a mean temperature for summer ranging from 20-30°C. Factors and data sources representing these variables are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Mean salinity for summer (June-October) (ppt)

Eco-hydrology model

Mean water temperature for summer (June-October) (°C)

Percent marsh area

Vegetation model


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The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Wetland Restoration Assessment Model (NHDES WRAM): Ecological integrity tool:38 Ecological integrity is used as a measure of how well a wetland is buffered from human activity by the surrounding upland area. Sites with high ecological integrity scores are relatively undisturbed by human activity and provide suitable habitat for plant and animal communities. WRAM evaluates ecological integrity based on the 12 factors listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Percent of candidate site with very poorly drained soils and/or open water

NRCS soils data

Dominant land use of the candidate site

NHLCC (2001)

Water quality of the watercourse, pond, or lake associated with the wetland

NHDES CALM

Ratio of the number of occupied buildings within 500 ft of the wetland edge

US Census

Percent of original wetland filled

NHDES wetland permits

Percent of wetland edge bordered by a buffer of woodland or idle land at least 500 ft in width (i.e., area of forest/idle land within 500 ft).

NHLCA (2001)

Percent of wetland plant community actively altered by mowing, grazing, farming, or other activities (i.e., agricultural land within wetland site).

NHLCA; CWS GIS layer (combination of NRCS poorly and very poorly drained soils and NWI wetlands).

Percent of wetland actively drained for agriculture or other purposes

NWI (modifiers 'x' and 'd')

Public road and/or railroad crossings per 500 ft of wetland

NHDOT Roads database

Long-term stability of the site

NHDES Dam; NWI (modifiers 'h,' 'x,' and 'b')

Acronym definitions

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The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Wetland Restoration Assessment Model ( NHDES WRAM) Significant Habitat Tool:38 WRAM used two functional valuations from the NH method - Wetland Wildlife Habitat and Finfish Habitat - to assess individual National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) wetlands in terms of significant habitat. Eight wetland wildlife habitat factors were used (e.g., permanent shallow water, percent wetland edge bordered by upland, etc.) as well as four finfish habitat factors (e.g., barriers to anadromous fish in streams associated with the wetland, etc.). In addition, the Technical Advisory Group uses Natural Heritage Bureau Exemplary Natural Plant Community data and habitat information from the 2006 Wildlife Action Plan as factors in the analysis. These factors and associated data sources are provided below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Wetland Wildlife Habitat factors

Score for ecological integrity

Data sources used to score the ecological integrity parameter (above)

Area of permanent shallow open water (less than 6.6 ft deep) associated with the wetland

NWI

Water quality associated with the watercourse, lake, or pond associated with the wetland

NHDES CALM

Wetland diversity found on the site

NWI

Dominant wetland class found on the site

NWI

Interspersion of vegetation class found on the site

NWI

Wetland juxtaposition (i.e., connectivity to other wetlands by a perennial stream or lake)

NWI

Percent of wetland edge bordered by upland wildlife habitat (brush, woodland, active farmland, or idle land).

2001 NHLCA land use

Finfish Habitat factors

Amount of forested land in watershed upslope of restoration site

USGS DEM; 2001 NHLCA forested land cover

Water quality associated with the watercourse, lake, or pond associated with the wetland

NHDES CALM

Barrier(s) to anadromous fish (dams, beaver dams, and road crossings) along the stream associated with the wetland

NH DES dams data; NHD and GRANIT Road Network culvert data; NWI modifiers 'b' and 'h'.

Stream bank width

NHD Flowline stream order data

Natural Heritage Bureau Exemplary Natural Plant Communities

Exemplary natural plant communities

NH Natural Heritage Bureau GIS database of exemplary natural plant communities

NHFG Wildlife Action Plan

Sites located in a high ranking habitat

NHFG WAP GIS data for high ranking habitats; CWS GIS layer (combination of NRCS poorly and very poorly drained soils and NWI wetlands).

Sites located within an unfragmented landscape

NHFG WAP GIS data for unfragmented landscapes; CWS GIS layer (combination of NRCS poorly and very poorly drained soils and NWI wetlands).

Acronym definitions

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Habitat Priority Planner (HPP) Mississippi-Alabama Habitats Tool (MAHT) - Freshwater Wetlands Tool:39 The Coastal Habitats Coordination Team Coastal Habitats Cordinating Team, which consisted of more than 60 state and local scientists, non-profit staff, environmental professionals (consultants), and local/state officials, identified priority habitats for protection using the Habitat Priority Planner (HPP) tool. The HPP was designed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC) to readily incorporate stakeholder input into planning and was applied by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program MBNEP in the following steps to identify priority habitat areas:

  1. The CHCT identified ten focal habitat types for which prioritization analyses should be completed - four of these represented aquatic resources.
  2. Staff from The Nature Conservancy and the CSC compiled data from local sources for each of these focal habitat types.
  3. CHCT members were provided the list of available data for each focal habitat type in addition to a list of possible metrics (e.g., perimeter-to-area ratio, proximity to other habitat patches, etc.) that could be applied to each. CHCT members used the available data to decide on metrics that could be used to prioritize habitat patches for each focal habitat type.
  4. Using the metrics identified for each habitat type by the CHCT, the CSC used the HPP tool to identify priority habitat areas. After the results were presented, the CSC engaged the CHCT in validating or modifying the results to produce a final set of HPP priority habitat maps.
  5. HHP priority habitat maps were incorporated into the Habitat Mapper tool.

CHCT members prioritized freshwater wetlands using four metrics that accounted for wetland land cover classification, size, proximity to urban areas, and current status as a priority area (see below).

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Classified as floodplain forest or tidal swamp

Alabama GAP data

Wetland is between 1 and 10 ha in size

Wetland is located more than 1000m from medium- or high-intensity developed areas

Boat ramps, marinas, and TNC priority areas excluded from the analysis

Alabama GAP data; TNC

Acronym definitions

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Habitat Priority Planner (HPP) Mississippi-Alabama Habitats Tool (MAHT) - Intertidal Marshes and Flats (Natural Resource Conservation) Tool:39 The Coastal Habitats Coordination Team CHCT, which consisted of more than 60 state and local scientists, non-profit staff, environmental professionals (consultants), and local/state officials, identified priority habitats for protection using the Habitat Priority Planner (HPP) tool. The HPP was designed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC) to readily incorporate stakeholder input into planning and was applied by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) in the following steps to identify priority habitat areas:

  1. The CHCT identified ten focal habitat types for which prioritization analyses should be completed - four of these represented aquatic resources.
  2. Staff from The Nature Conservancy and the CSC compiled data from local sources for each of these focal habitat types.
  3. CHCT members were provided the list of available data for each focal habitat type in addition to a list of possible metrics (e.g., perimeter-to-area ratio, proximity to other habitat patches, etc.) that could be applied to each. CHCT members used the available data to decide on metrics that could be used to prioritize habitat patches for each focal habitat type.
  4. Using the metrics identified for each habitat type by the CHCT, the CSC used the HPP tool to identify priority habitat areas. After the results were presented, the CSC engaged the CHCT in validating or modifying the results to produce a final set of HPP priority habitat maps.
  5. HHP priority habitat maps were incorporated into the Habitat Mapper tool.

CHCT members prioritized i ntertidal marshes and flats for natural resource conservation using metrics that accounted for land cover classification, proximity to species of concern, and proximity to protected areas (see below) .

Factor used in analysis

Data source

Classified as Mississippi Sound salt marsh or brackish tidal marsh

Alabama GAP data

Salt marsh within 100 feet of species of concern (beach mouse, sea turtle, oysters, and SAV)

Salt marsh is 500 ft or less from a protected area

Acronym definitions

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The Playa Lakes Decision Support SystemPLDSS Landscape-Scale Model:40 At a landscape scale, the PLDSS prioritizes clusters of playas based on the number and area of playas distributed throughout the landscape. The PLDSS's landscape-scale model for prioritizing playas first delineated two types of playa complexes based on known relationships between dabbling duck abundance and playa density.3

  • The first type of playa complex contained multiple, densely distributed playas and was defined in the PLDSS as an area containing more than 0.55 playas per square kilometer over an area with a radius of 2000m. Playa density measures used to delineate these areas were derived from spatial data for dabbling duck abundance, which were used to predict playa density based on the relationship shown below:

  • The second type of playa complex contained fewer large, isolated playas, defined in the PLDSS as an area containing 0.55% playa land cover over a 12.56-square kilometer circular area. As in the first complex type described above, the playa density measures used to delineate these complexes were predicted using dabbling duck abundance data based on the relationship shown below:

Because of the importance of playa wetland clusters for migratory waterfowl, each of the complexes identified using this method represents a priority area in which to target wetland restoration and conservation for the benefit of migratory bird populations. The landscape-scale model prioritized playa clusters based on their value to migratory waterfowl using the factors and data sources listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Spatial distribution of waterfowl

RMBO dabbling duck observation locations

Mid-winter waterfowl data from Texas

Acronym definitions

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The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Law Institute's Duck-Pensaukee Watershed Approach Pilot Project (TNC-ELI DPWAP) Fish Habitat Tool:41 A planning team assessed the ability of individual Potentially Restorable Wetlands and preservation wetlands to provide fish habitat by evaluating each site for two types of criteria using a GIS-based approach:

  • "Opportunity criteria" represented the possibility of provision of fish habitat benefits given the landscape context of each site evaluated.
  • "Effectiveness criteria" represented the capability of wetlands to provide fish habitat benefits given the specific characteristics of each individual site.

Using GIS analysis, the team counted the number of opportunity and effectiveness criteria satisfied at each wetland site, with PRWs and existing wetlands analyzed separately. These counts were divided by the total number of opportunity or effectiveness criteria that could possibly have been satisfied to obtain final scores for each PRW or existing wetland. Assessing PRWs and existing wetlands separately, the team designated the highest-scoring quarter of the sites to be "exceptional" priorities and the next quarter of sites to be "high" priorities. The lowest-scoring half of the sites were considered "low" priorities for PRWs (i.e., restoration) and were not considered priorities at all for existing wetlands (i.e., preservation). Factors and data sources used to assess fish habitat are listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Wetland reestablishment opportunities (PRWs)

See above

Wetland preservation opportunities

See above

Opportunity criteria

Sites is connected or contiguous with a perennial stream or lake

24k Hydro WI DNR, Wetlands, PRWs

Effectiveness criteria

Wetland is inundated in Spring (water regimes A, C, F, G, H)

NWI+, Historic Wetland LLWW, PRW

Contiguous water body, if present, is NOT 303(d)-listed

24k Hydro WI DNR, 303(d) listed lines and areas

Adjacent open water is bordered by natural landcover for ›50% of its length

Wetlands, CCAP 2001, 24k hydro

Natural cover (forest, shrubland, grassland, or other wetland) comprises ›40% of land in the wetland's catchment

CCAP 2001, NHDPlus Catchments (14-digit)

Acronym definitions

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The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Law Institute's Duck-Pensaukee Watershed Approach Pilot Project (TNC-ELI DPWAP) Wildlife Tool:41 This tool was used to map the capacity of Potentially Restorable Wetlands and preservation wetlands to support a variety of habitat types. The planning team first identified "habitat targets" (e.g., forested swamp) based on priority natural communities listed for the Duck-Pensaukee watershed in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan (WWAP) and input from local experts. For each of these habitat targets, the team then identified "representative species" based on WWAP-defined Species of Greatest Conservation Need that reflected the habitat, management and restoration needs of their associated habitat target (e.g., Canada warbler and northern flying squirrel were selected to represent the forested swamp habitat target). The team then engaged local experts who rated the strength of association between wildlife representing target habitats (e.g., Canada warblers) and habitats within the watershed for which high-resolution spatial data were available (e.g., evergreen forested wetland). These ratings, which ranged from '0' (no association) to '3' (significant association), were used to produce the following matrix:

Through expert input and literature searches, the team also defined "proximity factors" that were used to incorporate landscape-level requirements for each species into the model (e.g., Canada warblers require extensive forested habitat (upland or wetland) surrounding their primary forested swamp habitat). Together, the matrix and proximity factors were used as part of a GIS-based model to prioritize the importance of PRWs, existing wetlands, and uplands to the representative species. Factors and associated data sources used by the planning team to assess habitat quality are listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Wetland reestablishment opportunities (PRWs)

See above

Wetland preservation opportunities

See above

Strength of association between species representative of target habitats and available habitats mapped within the Duck-Pensaukee watershed

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan and input from local experts

Proximity factors

For 'open wetlands and water': Grassland or surrogate grassland must be adjacent to wetland and ›32 ha; emergent marsh patches must be ›10 ha.

Literature and expert input

For 'beaches': Emergent wetland and open water must be within 2 miles of beach habitat.

Literature and expert input

For 'shrub swamp': Non-shrub-swamp habitats must be within 600m of shrub swamp (otherwise, scored 0).

Literature and expert input

For 'forested swamp': Wetland forests must be ›6 ha and occur within a patch of contiguous forest (upland and/or wetland) ›48 ha. Upland forests must be ›48 ha and occur on soils that can support mesic (maple-beech) or wetter forests. Streams & lakes must occur within forest (upland and/or wetland) ›28 ha.

Literature and expert input

For 'integrated landscape': If "3" wetland types are adjacent to "3" upland types, then all types within 300m receive the indicated scores. If not, then none of the habitat types (wetland or upland) are scored.

Literature and expert input

For 'riparian habitat': Rivers/streams must be adjacent to natural land cover. All habitats must be within 300m of "clean" channels (i.e., no 303(d) designation or other polluted status). Ponds/lakes must be ‹1 ha.

Literature and expert input

For 'shorebird stopover habitat': existing prioritized habitat for shorebird species

WDNR Migratory Shorebird Stopover Model

Acronym definitions

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Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (TWRA CWCS) HUC-12 Aquatic Resource Prioritization Tool:42 The TWRA identified priority areas (HUC-12 watersheds) in which to focus aquatic resource restoration and conservation using an ArcGIS computer model integrated with a Microsoft Access database. In the model, HUC-12 watersheds were scored based on the rarity and viability of aquatic species of greatest conservation need (GCN), with GIS maps for each GCN species delineated based on species occurrence data from various databases, scientific experts, and the published literature. For each species, a rarity score was calculated as the species' global rank added to its state rank and a viability score was calculated by multiplying species' population size (i.e., number of individuals), condition, and landscape context. In the CWCS model, rarity and viability scores were combined for each species to produce a total priority score, which was used to assign an overall priority score to each HUC-12. This was done for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 species to produce prioritization maps of HUC-12 watersheds for species of varying conservation significance. CWCS model incorporates the factors and data listed below:

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

12-digit hydrologic units (HUC-12s)

NRCS

Species distribution maps

Species occurrence data

TN Division of Natural Heritage Rare Species Database (Biotics), TN Amphibian and Reptile Database (TAROD), TN Aquatics Database (TADS), Chicago Field Museum of Natural History Terrestrial Snail Database, TN Breeding Bird Atlas Database, TWRA-Parmalee Mussel Database, and TNC Cave Fauna Database.

Aquatic habitats (rivers, streams, and lakes)

TNC's Freshwater Initiative43

Acronym definitions

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UMass Amherst Conservation Assessment and Prioritization (CAPS) Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI):44 CAPS calculates IEI metrics for each of 22 different aquatic community types that reflect the ability of each point on the landscape to support the ecosystem processes necessary for the long-term sustainability of biodiversity. Teams of experts, composed of federal and state agency scientists, scientists from NGOs, and academic scientists, calculate IEI scores for each community type using 20 submetrics (see table below), which they rescale, weight, and combine in various ways depending on the community type to score each 30m2 cell.

The process of rescaling metrics assigns the metric a new value between zero and one by adjusting metric scores for a community in terms of percentiles for that community - e.g., the best 10% of marshes for a certain metric receive values › 0.90. Before combining metrics, rescaling is critical as it accounts for differences in units of measurement and ranges of values among metrics and identifies the "best" of each community by eliminating bias in metric scores caused by more dominant communities (i.e., forest). Expert teams then assign weightings to each metric representing that metric's importance relative to other metrics for each community. The rescaled and weighted metrics are added together to obtain an overall IEI score.

The geographic extent for which metrics are rescaled prior to the IEI calculation is critical for prioritizing different community types for conservation. If, for example, the metrics are rescaled relative to the boundaries of a watershed, then the top 10% of resulting IEI scores will identify areas likely to provide the highest ecological value over time within that watershed.

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Development metrics

Habitat loss

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands

Watershed habitat loss

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM, watershed resistance

Wetland buffer insults

DEP wetland polygons, MassGIS impervious surface layer

Road traffic

MassGIS 2005 land use, DEP wetlands data, MassDOT traffic rate data

Mowing and plowing

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Microclimate alterations

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Pollution metrics

Road salt

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM

Road sediment

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM

Nutrient enrichment

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM

Biotic alteration metrics

Domestic predators

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Edge predators

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Invasive plants

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Invasive earthworms

MassGIS 2005 land use and DEP wetlands data

Hydrological alteration metrics

Imperviousness

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM, MassGIS impervious surface layer

Dams

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, 30m DEM, Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety dams data

Coastal metrics

Salt marsh ditching

MassGIS 2005 land use, DEP wetlands data, salt marsh ditches

Tidal restrictions

MassGIS 2005 land use, stream centerlines, and roads/railroads; DEP wetlands data, NOAA tide station data; 30m DEM

Integrity metrics

Connectedness

MassGIS 2005 land use, DEP wetlands, ecological variables*

Aquatic connectedness

MassGIS 2005 land use and stream centerlines, DEP wetlands data, NHD stream network, ecological variables*

Similarity

MassGIS 2005 land use, DEP wetlands, ecological variables*

 

* Ecological variables include: Growing season degree-days and minimum winter temperature (PRISM data); incidental solar radiation, steep slopes, wetness, flow volume, flow gradient, tidal regime (DEM data); soil pH, depth, and texture (NRCS soils data); water salinity (photo-interpreted); substrate mobility, vegetative structure, developed land, traffic rate, impervious, terrestrial barriers, aquatic barriers (land cover data); CaCO3 content (TNC lithology data), wind exposure (MassGIS windspeed data), wave exposure (MassGIS wind power data); flow gradient (MassGIS stream centerlines), tidal regime (NOAA tide range data), tidal regime (DEP wetlands).
Acronym definitions

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USGS Forest Breeding Bird Decision Support Model:45,46The Forest Breeding Bird Decision Support Model is an ArcGIS-based assessment that rates 30m2 raster cells throughout the Mississippi Alluvial Valley for their ability to benefit forest-breeding birds through restoration of bottomland hardwood forest habitat. The tool scored potential restoration areas based on their proximity to forest core areas, with proximity scores weighted based on core area size. The contribution of restored area to landscape factors, such as percentage of surrounding habitat that is "non-hostile," was also taken into account, with extra consideration given to sites located at high elevations within the floodplain, which were considered less vulnerable to flood damage.1

Throughout the process of developing the tool, all member agencies and organizations in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Joint Venture Forest Bird Working Group were given the opportunity to review the tool methods and outputs.

The results of this scoring process were visualized as maps showing the priority ratings of all 30m2 pixels comprising the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV). Factors and data sources applied by the model are detailed below:

Factors used in analysis

Data source(s)

Proximity to forest core (area ›1000m from hostile habitat)

2001 NLCD (land cover classes: deciduous, evergreen, mixed, and transitional forests, orchards, and woody wetlands); Classification of forest cover from 1992 Landsat TM imagery, updated based on 1999 TM imagery (J. Holden, unpublished data)

Proximity to forest sub-core area (area ›500m from hostile habitat)

Proximity to forest non-core area

Forest core size: 1000-2000 ha; 2000-5000 ha; 100-1000 ha; ‹100 ha; ›5000 ha

Percent nonhostile habitat

 

Reforested areas

Public lands reforestation database maintained by the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture Office; office also works with partners to maintain data on private lands enrolled in WRP and CREP

Shrublands

NLCD 2001 (shrubland class)

Emergent wetlands

NLCD 2001 (emergent herbaceous wetlands class)

Natural water bodies

NLCD 2001 (open water class), USGS Digital Line Graph Hydrography Data (lakes and rivers; NHD)

Distribution of ridges and benches

Soil moisture index for non-forested habitats

Winter TM satellite imagery (J. Holden, unpublished data)

Estimated locations of local ridges and slopes

Identified from 30-m USGS DEMS (Caruso 1987)

Percent hydric soils land cover

Derived from soil associations defined in USDA STATSGO data (USDA 1995)

Crop type land cover data

Classified from TM imagery (Bellow and Graham 1992) that characterized the propensity for flooding throughout the MAV (e.g., cotton being least likely to flood and soybean the most likely to flood)

Location of natural flood storage basins

Multiple classified TM images (J. Holden, unpublished data)

Acronym definitions

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Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Habitat Quality Index (HQI):47 Using expert input, WDNR identified 13 wetland habitat types (e.g., wetlands near woodlands) along with one or two associated umbrella species (e.g., wood frog). In doing so, WDNR could comprehensively evaluate habitat value by analyzing a relatively small number of wildlife species, each of which accounts for the habitat requirements of several species. For example, wood frog habitat is also critical for blue spotted salamanders, tiger salamanders, American toads, spring peepers, and several other species. An expert group then scored 15 land use types in terms of their importance for each habitat type/umbrella species. In addition, "proximity factors" were used in a GIS analysis to identify locations of potential habitat for each species, which can then be combined with WDNR's Potentially Restorable Wetland layer to produce a layer of potentially restorable habitat for each species. By assigning each grid cell for each species a score of '1', all species layers can be summed to obtain a final HQI.

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

"Open water wetlands" (black tern, pied-billed grebe)

SEWRPC land cover data augmented by WISCLAND land cover and US Census TIGER/Line road data; WDNR DWWI wetland mapping data; Other sources of wetland mapping data (e.g., county-level sources, if available)

"Shallow marsh areas" (American bittern/Sora) with ›50% reed canary grass land cover included if within 10m of shallow marshes frequently used by or required habitat of American bittern/Sora)

"Watery wetlands near grassland" (blue-winged teal) that are frequently used by or required habitat of blue-winged teal, larger than 0.5 acres, within 10m of grassland AND associated grassland within 10m of and extending 100m from a watery wetland frequently used by or required habitat of blue-winged teal

"Wet meadow" (sedge wren) with shallow marsh land cover included only if within 10m of other wet meadow frequently used by or required habitat of sedge wren AND mesic grassland adjacent to other wet meadow frequently used by or required of habitat of sedge wren

"Wet shrub" (alder, willow flycatcher) including wetland meadow land cover only if within 10m of wetland shrub type and the obverse

"Wet forest, coniferous or mixed" (very, black-and-white warbler): uplands within 100m of wetlands and the obverse

"Wet forest, deciduous" (American redstart, blue-gray gnatcatcher): uplands within 100m of wetlands and the obverse

"Deep marsh and shallow marsh" (muskrat)

"Wet meadow/grassland" (meadow vole)

"Wet forests" (masked shrew)

"Open wetlands near grassland" (chorus frog) frequently used by or required habitat of chorus frogs that are larger than 0.5 acres, and within 10m of grassland AND grassland larger than 0.5 acres that extends 300m from open wetlands frequently used by or required of chorus frogs

"Wetlands near woodlands" (wood frog) frequently used by or required habitat of wood frogs that are larger than 0.5 acres, and within 10m of upland forest AND upland forest larger than 0.5 acres that extends 300m from wetlands frequently used by or required of wood frogs

"Wetland/upland complex" (Blanding's turtle): wetlands frequently used by or required habitat of Blanding's turtle that are larger than 0.5 acres, and within 15m of uplands frequently used by or required of wood frogs AND uplands frequently used by or required habitat of Blanding's Turtles that extends from frequently used wetlands within a travel distance of 300m

Acronym definitions

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Wetland Prioritization Study Main Page


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40 PLJV PowerPoint presentation and notes for the PLDS.
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42Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. 2005. Tennessee's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. TWRA: Nashville, Tennessee.
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44
McGarigal K, Compton B, Jackson S, Plunkett E, Rolih K, Portante T, Ene E. 2012. Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) Statewide Massachusetts Assessment: November 2011.
45 Twedt DJ, Uihlein WB, Elliot AB. 2005. A spatially explicit decision support model for restoration of forest bird habitat. Conservation Biology 20(1) 100-110.
46 Interview on 8/1/2011 with Daniel Twedt, Wildlife Biologist, United States Geological Survey.
47 Kline J, Bernthal T, Burzynski M, Barrett K. 2006. Milwaukee River Basin Wetland Assessment Project: Developing Decision Support Tools for Effective Planning.